Cabinet Extends Tal Law on Haredi Army Service by 5 Years

The Tal Law, which allows yeshiva students to avoid the draft into the military, will remain in force for another five years following a resounding majority vote in the cabinet yesterday.

The final vote in the Knesset will take place within two weeks.

Twenty-one ministers voted in favor, with only the new Minister of Justice Daniel Friedmann abstaining.

Friedmann criticized the law, saying that while the intolerable discrimination between those who do and don't serve may be addressed by assigning tasks to those who do not, "we must drastically improve the salary terms of IDF draftees."

The crucial article in the bill provides that from age 22, a yeshiva student is allowed a one-year grace to acclimatize to life outside the yeshiva, following which he must decide whether to serve in the Israel Defense Forces or return to the yeshiva.

The cabinet also approved recommendations from the Ivri Committee on Civil Service to establish a Civil Service Authority. The vote was 17 ministers to six (four ministers from Shas, Friedmann and Eitan Cabel).

The authority will enable expansion of the civil service program to include population sectors who do not currently serve such as ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs. 250 men who currently enjoy an exemption will be drafted for health care and education jobs in a trial program, in addition to 270 men already participating in the program.

Friedmann objected to the proposal on the grounds that since civil service constitutes cheap labor, it could affect low wage-earners. The minister added that "candidates for the draft will prefer to channel themselves to a shorter civil service stint, and obtain all the benefits."